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Outreach programs part of minister's legacy

July 15, 2002|by STACEY DANZUSO

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - For 10 years, the Rev. Don Nolder ministered to the needs of his congregation at First United Methodist Church in Chambersburg, listening to troubled teenagers and offering space to the growing Hispanic community.

After retiring two weeks ago, Nolder is now tending to the needs of the garden he hopes will flourish at his new home in Greene Township.

On his retirement Nolder, 58, received citations and kind words from local politicians and his congregation, but he is quick to credit the work of the church staff and volunteers for the outreach programs that thrived during his tenure as senior pastor.

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He said the congregation is nurturing and that outreach programs, including its music ministry and support groups for recovering drug addicts, are in its nature.

"It's really a congregation that seeks to be nurturing. We have an expanded lay staff and that enables us to do a lot of ministry one person couldn't do," he said.

The summer neighborhood ministry that began before Nolder came to Chambersburg has grown to include 45 children this summer, he said.

He added a contemporary service five or six years ago to bring more people into the church.

"We had to make the message more contemporary and relevant," Nolder said. "Today we have to minister in different ways. We have choices in so many things."

The church was just beginning the transition of meeting both the contemporary and traditional needs of the community when Nolder arrived in July 1992.

"You can't drop the old because it is meaningful for people who grew up with the tradition," he said. "This church is doing both now."

He began adult Bible studies, but he said one of his most significant contributions was a boys' Bible study for high school students.

"It was more of a support group that focused on life issues," Nolder said.

A number of young men from the church and community found it meaningful to have that kind of forum to go to and share, he said.

In 1993, First United Methodist Church opened its doors to members of the Hispanic community, which held church services there until acquiring its own building in 2000, Nolder said.

Church staff and members said they were sad to see Nolder leave.

"He is a people person and was there for them 24/7," said Stacey Fogal, who started her job as church secretary one month before Nolder came to Chambersburg.

His departure will leave a void in the boys' Bible study, she said.

Staff member Paula Hepfer agreed.

"He always had a special heart for kids, and they know it," she said. "It's much more of a relationship than a program."

Nolder said he began working in the church at age 19, and after four decades of wonderful experiences, he said the time and place were right for retirement.

He officially retired June 30, and his initial plans are to spend more time with his wife, Deanna, and his grandchildren, and to work in his garden.

With family in Altoona, Pa., and York, Pa., Nolder said Chambersburg is a good central location and a nice area where he was able to find the ideal home and yard for his gardening.

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